Columbia Public Schools narrows start-time options to two

Sunday, December 9, 2012 | 5:00 p.m. CST; updated 1:47 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 12, 2013

COLUMBIA — Members of the Columbia School Board’s Ad Hoc Transportation Committee have narrowed down the number of options for school start times.

Christine King, vice president of the board and a committee member, will update the board at the meeting Monday on the two options the committee came up with.

The committee's update is the result of months of discussion about the three-tiered bus system the district is switching to. The district needed to revamp its bus system to accommodate the opening of Battle High School in fall 2013 and two new elementary schools in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

The three tiers refer to the three separate start times elementary, middle and high schools could have once the new system is put in place.

One option is for elementary schools to start in the first tier, high schools to start in the second tier and middle schools to start in the third tier. The second option has middle schools starting in the first tier, high schools starting in the second tier and elementary schools starting in the third tier.

For the first option, the majority of elementary schools will be in the first tier, but some will be in the second tier because most of the students the district provides transportation to are elementary school students, King said.

Exact start times are not yet available because the district needs to figure out specific bus routes for the three tiers, King said. More information on bus routes will be available before the board votes on which option to approve in February.

District spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the time ranges for the tiers could be as follows:

  • Tier 1: Start - 7:35 to 7:45 a.m., Dismissal - 2:35 to 2:45 p.m.
  • Tier 2: Start - 8:25 to 8:35 a.m., Dismissal - 3:25 to 3:35 p.m.
  • Tier 3: Start - 8:50 to 9:00 a.m., Dismissal - 4:05 to 4:15 p.m.

Baumstark said high schools are in the second tier in both options because the district heard from parents that a later start time for high school students was important to them.

King said the feedback from October's World Cafe made it clear that any time before 7:30 a.m. is too early for high school and elementary school students. Also, any time after 9:10 a.m. is too late.

An important reason for having later start times for high school students, Baumstark said, is that studies show high school students perform better academically and attend school more often when they start the day at a later time.

King said an earlier start time for high school students was also preferable because district sports teams compete with schools in Kansas City, St. Louis and other cities that are farther away. Travel times to those cities impact how early students leave school.

Having high school in the second tier, with a start time around 8:30 a.m., is a good compromise, King said. For example, she said high school students could come home after school and be able to care for younger siblings, if they needed to.

At the board meeting, King will present a draft of a survey that will be sent out to teachers and community members to assess which of the two options more people support.

Also on the agenda:

  • Representatives from the Public Service Joint Communications Information Center will update the board on safety processes across the district. Baumstark said the center serves as a way to share information between law enforcement and school leaders quickly about crisis situations, such as a school shooting.
  • The board will hear an update about the Minority Student Achievement Network Conference and the network's plans for next year. Six high school students and two chaperones from the district attended the four-day conference in Phoenix in October.
  • A committee will also recommend that the board approve the lower bid for Rock Bridge High School’s new gymnasium bleachers. The bid from Heartland Seating Inc., a company from Shawnee, Kan., is about $25,000 less than the other bid from St. Louis’ Sportscon LLC, according to a document on the district’s website.

    The district originally recommended accepting Sportscon’s bid, citing that its bleachers were more structurally sound. The board did not approve that recommendation at its Nov. 12 meeting. In meetings with both companies on Nov. 28, the committee decided that Heartland Seating’s bleachers were up to code and couldn’t justify spending the extra money, according to a document on the district’s website.
  • Susan Blackburn, a Reading Recovery teacher in the district, will present a an update to the board. Reading Recovery is a program that intervenes to work with students who struggle with reading. The program trains teachers who work with students on alphabetics, the science of representing spoken sounds by letters. The program also helps students work on fluency, comprehension and general reading achievement, according to the district’s website.

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Neil C. Aslin Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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